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Dundee Literary Festival 2014

oscardundee

Just a quick post to let you know I’m taking my first picture book ‘Can’t-Dance-Cameron: A Scottish Capercaillie Story’ to Dundee Literary Festival on 25th October, 10.00am. Get tickets here. The event is part of the family fun day:

DundeeKids

There will be:

  • Football with giant foam pinecones (more about that here)
  • Videos of actual dancing capercaillies at RSPB Loch Garten
  • Beautiful Scottish wildlife images thanks to Laurie Campbell
  • A naughty water-squirting red squirrel
  • Science experiments
  • A chance to make a red squirrel or capercaillie fridge magnet

You can also expect sounds effects, stickers, smells and a few surprises. We’ll be learning capercaillie dance moves along the way and dancing to music composed especially for the event by Sam Gallagher. Here’s a wee sample of the track, click play below:

About the Story

Cameron the capercaillie can’t dance. His family, the MacFeathers are the best dancers in the Cairngorms but sadly, when Cameron wiggles everyone giggles. Cameron meets a new friend, a red squirrel called Hazel Nut who takes him on a journey through the forest, will he learn to dance?

Pet Portraits

Literary Dundee have been sharing photos of pets with the programme on their facebook page. I got a little bit carried away and sent Peggy Hughes eight photos from the photoshoot I did with Oscar. Here he is at the end (I think he’s had enough!).

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Find Literary Dundee on Facebook and on Twitter. Find the wonderful Dundee Literary Festival programme online here.

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2014 in Education, Events, nature, Science, storytelling

 

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Portobello Book Festival 2014

I’m part of this year’s Portobello Book Festival along with science writers Anna Claybourne and Pippa Goldschmidt. Here’s what the programme says about our event:

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The festival runs from the 3rd to the 5th of October in Portobello, Edinburgh. The programme launched earlier this month in the Dalriada Pub. I was excited to meet one of my fellow science writers Anna Claybourne at the launch:

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I grew up loving the type of children’s non-fiction science books that Anna writes so it was a real pleasure to meet her.

I was even more star struck (if that were possible) when I met the women behind a book I absolutely love, despite my inability to knit. I bring you the wonderfully woolly Knit Your Own Scotland:

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And here are Ruth and Jackie, they look a bit like they’ve been knitted too (or has the love for the book taken over my imagination?):

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I told them how much we loved their book in Leith Library and how we challenged the knitting group to knit Scotland for Book Week. The good news is, you can build a new Scotland (well knit it) at the knitting workshop on the Saturday afternoon.

This year’s programme really is amazing, we say that every year but it just keeps getting better. You can see all of the events here.

Writing Workshops

If you’re an aspiring writer, I’d recommend the ‘Opening Lines’ workshop on Saturday morning run by the lovely women from my writer’s group Mairi Wilson and Louise Kelly. Or if you’re into YA writing there’s a workshop with on ‘Writing for Teens’ with children and young people’s librarian Simon Radcliff, and award-winning YA authors Keith Gray and Cat Clarke.

I’m also looking forward to finding out ‘What’s happening in Publishing’ with Francis Bickmore (Publishing Director at Canongate Books), Allan Guthrie (author, agent, editor, publisher – what can’t this man do?) and Eleanor Collins (Senior Commissioning Editor at Floris Books) on Sunday afternoon.

Get Tickets

All the events are free but ticketed and tickets are available in person from Portobello Library. No you can’t book online or phone up – you need to go to the library and that’s a good thing! There will be a chance to donate after each event – please do – all the speakers and organisers contribute their time voluntarily – your donations will make next year’s festival possible.

It’s my third year being part of the programme and I’m delighted to be back in Portobello!

Find the programme online here. Follow Portobello Book Festival on Twitter @PortyBookFest.

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2014 in Education, Events, Science, storytelling, Writing

 

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Can’t Dance Cameron Book Launch

Can't Dance Cameron launch

Last week my first picture book ‘Can’t-Dance-Cameron: A Scottish Capercaillie Story’ launched in Edinburgh. STV Edinburgh wrote about it here. There were a couple of exciting announcements at the launch:

1) Can’t Dance Cameron is on a reprint. That doesn’t normally happen on the day a new book launches – the book was actually out in shops in Scotland a couple of weeks before the launch because of the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Thanks to everyone who’s been buying the book.

2) My new book ‘The Grouse and the Mouse’ is out next year – I had to keep that secret until now. I signed the contract at the beginning of August and wrote the first version of the book last year. It’s changed a bit since then and it’s now about ready to go to an illustrator. Very exciting.

Back to the launch, here it is in pictures, thanks to photographer Chris Scott. I’m like Can’t Dance Cameron – afraid I’ll look silly dancing BUT Chris somehow managed to get a photo of me in mid-air – he described it as an ascension shot. And I look, well,… almost graceful.

The Launch

The evening started with drinks, nibbles, networking and chat. People took their seats ready for the launch to begin:

Can't Dance Cameron launch

Can't Dance Cameron launch

Intro from Eleanor

The Chief Commissioning Editor at Floris Books, Eleanor Collins introduced people to me and the book:

Can't Dance Cameron launch

Living legend Jonathan Meres did a wee stand-up comedy slot with a giant blue dice:

Can't Dance Cameron launch

There were six comedy stories on my interactions with birds through the ages:

  1. AGE 7 IN THE DEN
  2. BIRD WATCHER BADGE
  3. HITCHCOCK’S THE BIRDS
  4. LEATHER GANNET
  5. FULMAR AUTOPSY
  6. PUFFINS AND MEETING THE QUEEN

We got three stories depending on the dice throw:

Can't Dance Cameron launch

Into the Forest

Then it was me. We went on an interactive journey through the forest to try to find a dancing bird. This is the naughty water squirting squirrel, Hazel Nut:

Can't Dance Cameron launch

Can't Dance Cameron launch

Here are the expert volunteers who fanned the smell of the pine forest all around the audience:

Can't Dance Cameron launch

This is an actual giant pine cone – from the USA. We practiced a firework style “ooooh!” and “Ahhhh!” when the pine cone came out – ready for later in the story…

Can't Dance Cameron launch

True or False?

This was a red squirrel true or false quiz – you had to make the shape of a T or an F with your body:

Can't Dance Cameron launch

Football

Then out came the football pine cones – Bethan and Roo volunteered:

Can't Dance Cameron launch

Here’s Bethan kicking the pine cone past the wild cat to distract it. That’s Adele, she’s works at the Botanic Gardens and she’s pretending to be a scots pine.

Can't Dance Cameron launch

Dancing

Then we learnt the dance moves, this is the assertion shot I mentioned earlier. Look at my feet!

Can't Dance Cameron launch

Science Experiment POP!

Then a quick science experiment to make the capercaillie popping noise using an alka-seltzer rocket!

Can't Dance Cameron launch

Music and Dancing

Then we put the dancing together with the music and everyone joined in:

Can't Dance Cameron launch

Here’s a sample of the track, click play below:

Even Roy Gill danced, despite his earlier tweet:

The Story

Then I shared the story with the pictures up on the big screen:

Can't Dance Cameron launch

With some actions along the way:

Can't Dance Cameron launch

Q and A

After that it was time for the Q and A chaired by Bookriot blogger Edd McCracken:

Can't Dance Cameron launch

There were some great questions from the audience including:

  • What inspired the book?
  • What happened to the wildcat?
  • How long did it take to write the book?

Can't Dance Cameron launch

Thanks

Then there were some thank yous, hosted by poet Elspeth Murray:

Can't Dance Cameron launch

Elspeth thanked:

On my behalf and then I said a few thanks to:

  • My writers group – especially Mairi who let me stay in Ullapool (where I wrote the first version of the book)
  • The Scottish Book Trust (they funded the writing of this book via the Reader in Residence post at Leith Library)
  • Katie Pamment the Illustrator
  • Everyone at Floris Books
  • A big thanks went to my amazing editor Eleanor – I gave her some flowers

Can't Dance Cameron launch

I also thanked everyone for coming and for buying books. Finally Kirsten the publicist from Floris came up to say a final thanks – it was a lovely surprise to be given some flowers too!

Can't Dance Cameron launch

Signing

Then a sort of double queue formed, here’s a slightly awkward moment when two people thought they were first in line!

Can't Dance Cameron launch

It was lovely to meet people and sign copies of the book. The illustrator Katie Pamment signed too – it’s not every day you get a first edition signed by the author and the illustrator:

Can't Dance Cameron launch

This is near the end of the queue. By the time we finished all the wine had run out – before I had chance to drink any!

Can't Dance Cameron launch

There are more lovely photos from the event in a Chris Scott album here

Feedback

Lastly here are some of the tweets from the event. Floris books put some together in a storify too, find it here.

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2014 in Education, Events, nature, Science, storytelling, Writing

 

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The Istanbul Review

I’m excited to have a science poem published in the latest edition of The Istanbul Review, page 22:

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Relativity has a mathematical structure – every line has one more word all the way up to twenty. It’s about the maths and science and stories inside everything. It would fit into the writing genre of creative non fiction – if you’re wondering what creative non fiction is, I wrote a bit about it here.

There’s also an interview with me covering writing for children, writing science, working with excluded teens, blogging and asking ‘if I could add a word to the dictionary, what would it be?’. They do this awesome thing where illustrator Aysegul Sinav draws each contributor:

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I love the gorgeous artwork on the cover (by Canan Berber):

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I should maybe explain what The Istanbul Review is – It’s a literary journal featuring fiction, poetry, art, interviews, creative non fiction and out takes. It’s printed in Istanbul. This issue includes another creative non fiction piece, by Turkey’s most read novelist Elif Skafak:

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There are some lovely mathematical structures in there too in the form of sestutes (62 word poems) by Edinburgh based award-winning historical fiction writer Sara Sheridan:

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Buy a copy online here. Or if you’re in Edinburgh, you can pop in and buy one (or order over the phone from anywhere in the UK) from Looking Glass Books.

Find the Istanbul Review online, on twitter, on pinterest and on Facebook. They’re open for submissions just now for issue 6, find out how to submit your work here

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2014 in poetry, Science, storytelling, Writing

 

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Book Festivals in Pictures

Last week was a big week for me. It involved three events at Edinburgh International Book Festival and one event at Inverness Book Festival. These were my first public performances of my new children’s book ‘Can’t Dance Cameron’. I wanted to say a massive thanks to everyone who came along to the events. Here are a few highlights in pictures. I should probably say excuse my excitement over minor details like seeing my name on the signing board – this is all new to me so it still seems very exciting and not quite real!

Event 1: Public Event ‘Dancing Capercaillies‘ at Edinburgh International Book Festival

Oh my goodness, I’m on the board:

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Mum got excited after seeing Cameron on the ‘Today at the Festival’ shelves in the book shop:

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The event kicked off – no photos allowed. But a couple of people snook some pics (don’t blame me), here’s a tweet:

And a photo of the Q and A with my lovely chair, Margaret Bell.

Questions included ‘What inspired you to write the book?’, ‘Why are pine cones bigger in America?’ and ‘How old are you?’

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Then it was signing time! It was lovely to meet so many children and parents. Here’s a picture of me near the end of the signing. That’s Rosie my niece, Poppy my best friend’s daughter and Eleanor Collins, my Editor from Floris Books sitting next to me. She’s on sticker duty – would you like a red squirrel or a capercaillie?

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And this gorgeous wee girl is Hailie, my friend Hazel’s granddaughter. I’m not sure who looks most excited?

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I took a pic of the ‘SOLD OUT’ screen on the way out, it felt good to be up there. It also felt good to have finished one event. I’d been feeling so nervous in the week leading up to it. Like most authors, I spend a lot of time alone. I’m an introvert so planning an event where I dance like a bird on the stage and kick giant foam pine cones is always going to scare me, even if I’ve been working with children for years. So it was good to have that first event under my belt.

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Event 2: Amnesty Imprisoned Writers Series ‘Reading Malala’

Again, no pictures allowed but I wrote about the event here. Thanks to Amnesty for the amazing opportunity to read Malala’s work. People were moved to tears by her words, it was such a privilege to be part of something so worthwhile.

DAY OFF!

I needed one. We went to Craigmillar Castle. These are the lovely people who’d traveled a long way to see me in the book festival. My parents, one of my sister’s and her family and my best friend and her family.

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Event 3: Schools event at Edinburgh International Book Festival

Again, no pictures allowed but I had a lovely time with primary 2 and primary 3 classes from Pentland Primary School. I also had an author portrait taken later that day by photographer Chris Close. Here it is hanging up at the festival next to (can you believe it!?) Jacqueline Wilson!

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Event 4: Public event at Inverness Book Festival 

The lovely people in Inverness Book Festival and Publishing Scotland made me feel so welcome. I was excited to see the programme for the first time:

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Again, no photos allowed during the event but here’s a picture of me and illustrator signing books afterwards. We’re not in a car park – there was a car inside the venue at Eden Court:

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Here we are outside:

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And inside again:

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Thanks to Duncan Charles Clarke Photographer for the Inverness Book Festival Pictures.

More Book Festivals 

Literary Dundee launched their lovely programme yesterday. I’m going to be doing a children’s event on the Saturday 25th October at Dundee Literary Festival. I’ll also be doing something for grown-ups about writing science in Portobello Book Festival (read about my other book for adults that launched this month here). Portobello Book Festival is in October, their programme launches a week today…

Book Launch: You’re Invited

Lastly, if you’re close to Edinburgh you’re invited to my book launch on Thursday September 11th, 6pm. I’d love to see you there. Kids welcome too. Get tickets here.

Massive thanks to everyone at Floris Books, Edinburgh International Book Festival, Inverness Book Festival and Publishing Scotland. Thanks to photographers Chris Close and Duncan Charles Clarke and to my illustrator Katie Pamment. Lastly thanks to everyone who’s supported me and the book at events and on social media! 

 
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Posted by on August 29, 2014 in Education, Events, storytelling, Writing

 

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Inverness Book Festival

Inverness Book Festival

This Saturday my new picture book ‘Can’t Dance Cameron’ is coming home to the Highlands. We’re off to the Inverness Book Festival.

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Event Details: Saturday 23rd August 11.30am, Eden Court, Inverness. 

Tickets for children are £4 but include a free adult entry. You are of course welcome without a child too.

GET TICKETS HERE

There will be:

  • Football with giant foam pinecones (more about that here)
  • Videos of actual dancing capercaillies at RSPB Loch Garten
  • Beautiful Scottish wildlife images thanks to Laurie Campbell
  • A naughty water-squirting red squirrel
  • Science experiments

You can also expect sounds effects, stickers, smells and a few surprises. We’ll be learning capercaillie dance moves along the way and dancing to music composed especially for the event by Sam Gallagher. Here’s a wee sample of the track, click play below:

About the Story

Can’t Dance Cameron is a book about a capercaillie called Cameron who can’t dance. His family, the MacFeathers are the best dancers in the Cairngorms but sadly, when Cameron wiggles everyone giggles.

Cameron meets a new friend, a red squirrel called Hazel Nut who takes him on a journey through the forest…

If you want to know what happens next you’ll have to come along!

Signing

We’ll finish the event with a signing. Here’s me getting some practice in at Edinburgh International Book Festival earlier this week:

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My Illustrator

I’m really excited to hear my illustrator, Katie Pamment is coming along to the event too. She lives in the highlands and I love how her pictures have captured the feel of the place so well. We’ll be meeting for the first time at Inverness Book Festival.

Other Events

There are loads of brilliant book related events at Eden court from now until Saturday evening, find out more on the Inverness Book Festival website. I’m really looking forward to the event on writing for children and young adults with Keith Charters and Gillian Phillip at 3.30pm – get tickets here.

Read about ‘Can’t Dance Cameron’ on the Floris website here. You can buy it at the Inverness Book Festival or from your local bookstore. 

 

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2014 in Events, nature, Science, storytelling, Writing

 

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The Day I Woke up in Hospital

Later today at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, I’m reading the work of Malala Yousafzai. Here’s a bit about her:

Malala Yousafzai was born on July 12, 1997, in Mingora, Pakistan. As a child, she became an advocate for girls’ education, which resulted in the Taliban issuing a death threat against her. On October 9, 2012, a gunman shot Malala when she was traveling home from school. She survived, and has continued to speak out on the importance of education. She was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2013, and again in 2014.

The piece I’m reading is called ‘The Day I woke up in Hospital’ and is an extract from the book ‘I am Malala‘ by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb. I feel humbled and honoured to be reading something so moving and meaningful.

There are four authors reading tomorrow. We’ve all volunteered because we wanted to read the work by authors who have had their right to freedom of expression violated, been imprisoned, persecuted, forced into exile or even killed for their work.

Here’s what the programme says about tomorrow’s event:

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Posted by on August 18, 2014 in Events, storytelling, Writing

 

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